BigBang is one of South Korea’s biggest boy bands, and its youngest member Seungri has been hogging headlines in recent months – for all the wrong reasons. His March 11 announcement that he was quitting showbiz came on the heels of allegations of sexual pimping and drug use at his nightclub.
The spate of events is all the more shocking as the consensus among fans was that Seungri, 28, was doing well in recent years.
He was enjoying his solo time in the limelight after four older members of BigBang – G-Dragon, TOP, Taeyang and Daesung – enlisted in the army. He styled himself as the “Great Seungri”, a moniker that paid homage to the Great Gatsby of fiction.
So when news of the Burning Sun incident broke – staff at his Seoul club were accused of assaulting a customer in November 2018 – it came as a shock. Out came a laundry list of tawdry details, including that Seungri procured prostitutes for his clients and watched hidden-camera videos of drugged women.
Yet, he still enjoys support from his followers. Fans behind tweets and Instagram posts proclaiming his innocence seem unwilling to accept that their hero could be a flawed person. To them, it is inconceivable that their “oppa” (older brother) could or would do such a thing.
This perspective comes from the way K-pop stars are marketed. They are viewed by fans as virginal singing and dancing machines, always thin and ageless, with perpetual smiles. Angels, some might go so far to say, who do not need to eat, sleep or date.
Even more dangerous is the surprisingly common opinion that K-pop stars “belong” to those who support them: They are the perfect boyfriends and girlfriends that fans desire.
It is hence in the interest of K-pop stars to keep up their saccharine-sweet personas well into their 30s. This is simply good for business – and allows stars to shield the people they date from unwanted attention or harassment.
Given such an environment, it is perhaps not that surprising there are fans who believe the Burning Sun scandal was fabricated to bring Seungri down. What is unusual in this case was also the singer’s reaction.
Faced with a scandal, most South Korean celebrities apologise to their fans through their management companies, then retreat into their Gangnam and Cheongdamdong mansions to ride things out.
But unlike his band mates TOP and G-Dragon, who both faced allegations of drug use, Seungri chose to announce his retirement. Management agency YG Entertainment has since terminated his contract.
This is a time of reckoning for the singer and, perhaps, for his fans as they come face to face with the inescapable truth: K-pop stars are human beings who can and will err. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network